Breaking Down

by spitfirepanda

Chapter 1: Trials of Conquest

Joan stood next to Gilda as they waited together in a large, sealed room. Behind them stood Ada and Laurel, Joan’s two Clefable friends and personal guards recently returned from a test run of the Slowking College’s newest machine. Their destination was an alternate earth where humans were the dominant species. There were no Pokémon, no griffons, and the ponies that lived there were nothing like the ponies that lived in Equestria. Visiting this new land was an exciting prospect. Joan didn’t know what to expect, but she hoped to find a happy society filled with new friends to make. If that were the case, then it would be just like Equestria and her argument against Charles would be more easily made.
“Professor Brian, are you sure this’ll work right?” Gilda asked as she casually stretched her wings.
“Not in the slightest,” Professor Brian said through the speakers. He sat in another room behind Joan and Gilda, separated by a wall of glass. Before him was a console with various screens hanging from the ceiling around him. “Ada and Laurel were separated in the other world, though they eventually found one another. I still don’t know what went wrong, but I suspect the same will happen this time.”
“We should have held hands,” Laurel said, nervously. “We were only separated by a few hundred miles, but it took forever to reunite while staying hidden.”
“And we didn’t learn much,” Ada said with a hint of frustration in her voice. “Except that the humans of this world have a similar level of technology to the humans of our world. They even had a talking car!”
“What was it saying?” Joan asked.
“Just numbers. I think it was counting the stars, though I didn’t stay long enough to find out. It was parked out in the street without a driver, and it sounded strangely… homesick, perhaps? I hope we find it again! I’d like to get a better look at it.”
Ada rubbed her chin in thought as she considered her encounter. Joan smiled, knowing that her friend’s curiosity and love of machines would lead her to find the car, or one like it.
“You must avoid all forms of interaction, even if it’s just with an automaton,” Princess Celestia said. “Joan can disguise herself. She’s the only one who should be talking to the locals directly. Your goals are to observe and find a suitable landing spot for us. Get the lay of the land. Form opinions on the humans for yourselves, and report back. Most importantly, as the first wave you must make way for the second wave which will, in turn, herald the arrival of God’s Breath and Canterlot. From there, we’ll begin the project in earnest.”
“With my psychic powers it should be easy for us to reunite, Gilda,” Joan added. “We’ll just have to stay safe and undiscovered until then.”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m wearing a black riot suit instead of my normal armor. If we do end up in different places, it might do some good to explore separately for a bit so long as we stay in touch.”
“Your riot suit won’t have the protection of forged steel,” Rarity said through the speakers. “Still, you’ll look fabulous. Like a magical spy preparing to infiltrate the catwalk…”
“I still can’t believe you’re going in my place,” Rainbow Dash interrupted, her voice heavy with disappointment.
“I won that contest fair and square,” Gilda said with a grin as the Litwick that hung from her saddlebags cheered for her. “Isn’t that right, Pinkie?”
“You won by a teeny weeny itty bitty feather!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, happily. “That’s how much you beat Applejack by. Rainbow got caught up in the flooded cave.”
“That cave wasn’t just flooded, it was collapsing!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “I got hit by a rock and my wings got wet… And besides, I wasn’t that far behind you two. Only a couple minutes.”
“Third is still third, Ms. Iron Pony,” Applejack teased as she crossed her front legs and grinned. “You just need a bit a’ practice, is all.”
Rainbow Dash grumbled at this, and Gilda stifled a laugh behind her wing. The pegasus had bragged about winning since the moment the obstacle course had been announced, only to come in last. Joan still felt a bit sorry for her, but she had seen the obstacle course. Gilda and Applejack had earned their places.
“The shield spell we used previously has been discarded in favor of increased flexibility and stealth,” Twilight Sparkle said, changing topics as she gave Rainbow Dash a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “We’re also out of petrified dragon fangs to use as enchanting focuses. We can’t replicate the enchantments we used on Octaria and Battleworld without one.”
“Cloth and steel is all we got this round,” Applejack said with the look of one eager for a challenge. Rainbow Dash had recovered from her disappointment, her face mirroring her friend’s excitement.
“It’s actually a miracle we had the first dragon tooth,” Princess Celestia said. “It takes thousands of years for dragon teeth to petrify. As such, they’re even more rare than actual dragons. Luna and I found it, shattered in pieces, in an abandoned nest when we were little, and held onto it. We never considered using it as a magical focus, though. That was Cadance’s idea. Even without the enchantment, I believe Rarity has devised effective protection for you.”
“I believe I have,” Rarity said, proudly. “I’ve weaved the fabric tightly, and reinforced it through three layers. It should be strong enough to reduce the impact of most projectiles. It also breathes quite well and doesn’t restrict movement. I only achieved this through sectioning the armor. Your vitals are the most protected, while the joints are more vulnerable. Still, I must say, it’s one of my best creations.”
“It is,” Princess Twilight agreed. “The enchantment you currently have will make your footsteps silent no matter what you’re walking on or how stealthy you move. It will also muffle your voice for anyone you’re not allied with so long as your flight helmet is on. You’ll be silent without even trying. And the spell won’t break unless the armor is completely destroyed. Any repairs you might make to it will pass the spell on to the new material. Any material you add will have to be cloth, though. It’s lightweight, but effective for your task.”
“That’s alright,” Gilda said, confidently. “The lighter the armor the quicker I’ll be. And I’ve got my two Litwick buddies to look out for me, too.”
The tiny Litwick cheered, their flames rising higher in excitement. Joan smiled down at them as she appreciated their warmth and enthusiasm.
“Our goal is simply to ascertain whether or not the humans we meet are valid subjects,” Princess Celestia said, calmly once the Litwick were done cheering. “We will observe them, and their societies, for a month. During this time, Sunset Shimmer and Fluttershy will get an idea of human society in the Pokémon world by pretending to be Pokémon. After a month we will decide if further observation is needed.”
“At least we’re not under the kind of pressure we were prior to Arceus reuniting with its evil side,” Princess Luna said. “The Creation Trio seem to have done a good job of keeping the god from straying onto darker paths.”
“Let’s hope it stays that way, majesty,” Professor Brian said as he pressed a button on his console. The next room was bathed in light as a swirling, ethereal vortex opened in the arches built into the wall.
Joan took Ada’s hand, who in turn was holding onto Laurel. With her other hand, she took hold of one of Gilda’s feathers. Their friends wished them well as they stepped into the world beyond.

“Sure enough, I’m all alone.”
The transition had been jarring. The Mega Gardevoir pulled herself up from the ground where she had landed and rubbed her sore head for a moment. Joan examined her surroundings carefully as she formed an illusion around herself. Her green hair turned into long, braided, brunette locks. Her elegant, white body became a simple brown dress that ended at her knees. Her green eyes became a brilliant hazel color. Her mind extended naturally, exploring her surroundings as she searched for friend and foe.
“I’ve lost the psychic connection with the others,” Joan thought as she accustomed herself to her surroundings. A scream echoed from behind her. Joan knew what was coming before it arrived. A small, black creature was chasing a woman down the alley Joan had arrived in. To the Pokémon, it looked almost like a miniature Mightyena with more drool and oversized teeth. Three more creatures bounded across the corner as the woman and her pursuers closed in on Joan.
“Run!” the woman yelled. “Move it!”
“Of course,” Joan said as she fell into step with the woman. The monsters howled angrily, snapping at Joan’s heels as she ran alongside her new companion. She saw a door cracked open, but as she reached for it a meaty, purple hand pushed it open. A creature stepped out of the building, snarling angrily as foam dripped from its tusks. Joan prepared an attack as it reached out with its thick, gnarled fingers. Before she could launch her psychic assault, the monster was pulled from the ground and thrown hard. It landed on top of the hounds, a painful crunching sound echoing through the alleyway as the dogs whined.
“Your father’s worried, Lois,” said the man who hovered before them. “He’s been trying to contact you for an hour. He called me out of desperation and I promised to find you. He’s got the other two creatures in a lab. They’re being dissected as we speak.”
“They were killed?” the woman asked as she pulled out a pen and pad.
“His soldiers were attacked. They were forced to defend themselves.”
“Ambushing the guards of a military base is a good way to get shot. At least these things aren’t too smart.”
“I don’t think they were looking for a fight,” the man in the sky said as his cape flapped in the wind. He looked down at the purple creature as it pulled itself off of the squirming, alien hounds. “I think they were just looking for food, and a place to hide, perhaps. There are more in hiding, elsewhere. That’s what Batman claims, at least.”
“They’re definitely not smart enough for a forward scouting mission,” said the woman named Lois. “Let’s talk more, later. I’ll head back to the military base and let my father know I’m alright.”
She turned toward Joan and quickly wrote something down on her notepad. Then she tore the page off and handed it over. Joan smiled excitedly as she took it, visions of possible futures and past events running through her mind. Their names came quickly. Visions of their deeds came to her as well, though she decided to explore those things later.
“This is my number,” Lois said with a smile. “I’m Lois Lane, reporter for the Daily Planet. I don’t think I need to introduce my friend up there.”
“No, it’s an honor to meet both of you,” Joan said as she took the paper.
“Call me tomorrow morning around nine. I’ll give you an interview for my story, Ms. …”
“Joan. My name is Joan Gardé.”

Laurel and Ada had miraculously arrived in the same town, though they were on different sides of it. They ran through the shadows, avoiding contact with humans as they explored the landscape separately. After several minutes of searching Joan’s voice came to both of them through telepathy, and she helped them find one another.
Laurel ran through the shadows as night cradled the town of Smallville, Kansas. The smell of fresh vegetables and fertilizer filled her nostrils as she ran through the farmyard. Some of those same vegetables were now held firmly in her arms as she approached the hillside where Ada was waiting. Her friend didn’t greet her as she approached, nor did she turn to face her. Laurel laid the food on the ground and followed Ada’s gaze to the top of the hill.
“Is something wrong?” Laurel asked. “Is that a car?”
“Shhh,” Ada said as she held up her hand for silence. Laurel had heard its engine as she approached, but she had been distracted by thoughts of food. A bright red sports car was illuminated by the moonlight. Light red kanji glistened on the car’s side just above its back tire. The car revved up slightly and drove down the hill to stop beside the Clefable.
“Hey little creatures,” the car said. “Are you from Earth?”
“Not this one,” Laurel said, simply.
“I saw you the other day,” Ada said, softly. “But you were in a city! Why are you here?”
“My commander said I needed the fresh air after… almost getting seen by humans during a drag race. I told him they just thought I was some guy in a sweet ride. I mean, they’d never suspect that the sweet ride they lost to was the guy who beat ‘em, right? Who cares if I bragged a little.”
“Some humans can be pretty clever. Can we drive with you, please? We’re kinda hiding from the humans too.”
“Sure. Why not? It’s not like I can make you forget this little conversation, anyway. Bee’ll understand.”
Ada’s eyes lit up and she squealed in delight as she climbed inside the car’s front seat. Laurel smiled as she ran around to the passenger side.
“The name’s Sideswipe, by the way,” the car said as he closed his doors and began to drive through the farmyard. “I’m a Cybertronian.”
“I’m Ada, and this is Laurel. We’re Clefable!”
“Good to meetcha’,” Sideswipe said as he entered the empty road. The three became friends quickly as they shared stories of battles and glory, friends and fun, and the information they had gained about this new world.